Health

Forever Grateful for a Patriotic Employer

This Army reservist embraced duty to country — while her civilian workplace showed loyalty to her

The nation’s reservists never know when they might get a call to deploy for overseas duty — and not every employer is supportive when staff needs to go.

Some reservists have returned to find their jobs altered or eliminated, or have found themselves transferred to another job that proves to be unsatisfying. Others have actually returned to find they have no job at all.

Over 15,000 complaints were filed between 2001 and 2013 by reservists who returned home to find their jobs eliminated.

So imagine the relief Sgt. 1st Class Connie Oberg of Fremont, Nebraska, felt after giving only a week’s notice that she needed to report for active duty. Her boss replied, “You’re good!”

Not knowing how she would cover Oberg’s duties, Bethany Childers, of the Fremont Health Medical Center, was supportive. The entire medical facility at Fremont is a positive place, according to Oberg. But Childers’ department, human resources, has a special attitude. Her colleagues have supported her emotionally as she served two deployments as well as multiple training and classroom assignments as a U.W. Army reservist. She previously spent six years on active duty.

“Having that reassurance that you don’t have to worry about having a job when you get back means a lot,” Oberg told LifeZette. “I never felt any pressure from work and I never heard, ‘I can’t believe you did this to me,’ which some of the people I deployed with did hear.”

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After returning to her job, Oberg nominated Childers for the Patriotic Employer award in a Department of Defense program known as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). The award brought recognition to Childers specifically. Oberg presented a flag flown overseas to the medical center to honor it, too.

Related: Honoring God and Country

“It’s a small token of appreciation for employers who look after us while we’re gone,” Oberg said, adding she prefers to deflect attention to Fremont Health and Childers.

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Both women actually downplay their roles — but Childers is clearly the type of leader who builds a team that values supporting each other, no matter the source of their needs.

“I was so honored,” Childers told the Fremont Tribune. “The military was honoring me, when we were trying to honor her service,” she said, referring to Oberg.

“It’s a family environment,” she added. “They truly want to acknowledge each individual … They support each person if they need to be gone for whatever reason. The staff want people to be who they’re intended to be.”

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While she was deployed, Oberg’s was a cook for a 120-person unit. She relished the opportunity to make a difference for everyone who was away from home. “Food is a morale booster!” she said. “When you’re away from home, you look forward to meals.”

The deployment, which ran from August 2015 to April 2016, gave her meal-planning duties as well as baking — a special love of hers. Chocolate chip cookies, Valentine’s Day pink-and-red treats, and banana bread are some of the memorable goodies she used as morale boosters.

The United States has military personnel deployed to 150 countries. There are over 1 million reservists; they make up about 45 percent of the overall military personnel population. Although federal law is designed to protect reservists, over 15,000 complaints were filed between 2001 and 2013 by reservists who returned home to find their jobs eliminated.

Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.

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